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Friday, January 27, 2006, 04:55 pm PT (07:55 pm ET)

Apple\'s Front Row media experience coming to iBook line

Apple Computer appears ripe to extend its Front Row media experience to a new line of iBook consumer laptops this spring.

Introduced this past October, Apple's Front Row software offers users a simple and powerful way to play their music, enjoy photo slideshows, and watch video such as DVDs, iMovies, and programming purchased from the company's iTunes Music Store.

This spring Apple is expected to roll-out the a new series of iBook consumer laptops built around a 13-inch widescreen display. The new models will sport the first major design revision to the iBook in several years and come bundled with both Front Row and the Apple Remote, people familiar with the company's plans tell AppleInsider. Like Apple's new iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro computers, the new iBooks will also feature a built-in iSight video cam and come bundled with the company's Photo Booth software, these people say.

Although processor specifications for the upcoming iBook series remain largely unconfirmed, it's only logical to assume the laptops will be powered by Intel's 1.67GHz Core Solo processor — the only processor on the chip maker's roadmap suited for a laptop that is neither equal to, nor greater than, the Core Duo chips used in Apple's MacBook Pro laptops. As the name implies, Intel's Core Solo processors contain one processing core, compared to the Core Duo's two.

Keeping true to its roots, the iBook's industrial design is expected remain similar to the current models. One person who claims to have caught a glimpse of the nearly-finalized prototype describes it as a slightly-smaller cousin to the recently introduced MacBook Pro, but clad in iMac white. Meanwhile, rumors that Apple's Intel-based iBooks would arrive without support for FireWire are untrue, this person said. The new models are said to retain a single FireWire 400 port in addition to two USB 2.0 ports.

Although Apple has reportedly decided to base the new series of iBooks around a single enclosure and display size, it's still expected that the laptops will arrive in at least two retail configurations — one with a SuperDrive and the other without. The latter model will fall within the sub-$1000 range currently occupied by the 12-inch PowerPC-based 1.33GHz iBook. All configurations will include an infrared sensor in the front of the laptop capable of communicating with the Apple Remote. This will allow users to control the included Front Row software on their iBook from up to 30 feet away.

Of interest, those people familiar with Apple's plans say the company at one point seriously considered adding a black-colored Intel iBook model to its offering. However, no such model has ever been seen, and with the development of the new laptops winding down, this option seems unlikely. The idea was reportedly inspired by the success of Apple's black iPods, which instantly became a hit with consumers when Apple introduced its iPod nano digital music player this past September.

It remains unknown whether Apple will re-brand the iBook under new name like it recently did with the PowerBook line.